Prime Marina Group sails toward first complete season

Edgartown and Vineyard Haven marinas are part of growing network.

From left, bookkeeper Teresa Brewster, service manager Mike O'Hara, Brandon Steigeman, and Andy Jahnes. - Stacey Rupolo

Prime Marina Group, a Miami company that purchased two Island marinas from George and Sheryl Rogers last year, renamed both those marinas for the upcoming season. Edgartown Marina and Vineyard Island Marina are now Prime Marina Edgartown and Prime Marina Vineyard Haven respectively, though signage at both marinas simply reads Prime Marina. Four marinas currently make up the group’s portfolio. In addition to its Vineyard holdings, Prime Marina Group operates a marina in Coconut Grove, a well-heeled neighborhood in Miami, and another in East Greenwich, R.I., a town that according to the latest U.S. Census data, has the highest median family income in the Ocean State. Brian Ferrara, the group’s director of marine operations, told The Times that sometime before the end of the season this year, Prime Marina Group plans to close on a fifth marina at an undisclosed Northeast location.

Mr. Ferrara, a UMass graduate, formerly served as general manager for the enormous Marina Bay marina in Quincy, a facility currently owned by Brewer Yacht Yards and Marinas. While there, he oversaw 680 boat slips, and shepherded the design of 60 special slips dedicated to docking yachts of up to 250 feet in length. On the Vineyard, he oversees a far smaller number of slips — 55 in Vineyard Haven, where there are also 35 moorings, and 70 rack-service slips. Off Morse Street in Edgartown, a slipway and a Marine Travelift, two work docks, and six service moorings are under his stewardship. Between the marina in Vineyard Haven and the boatyard at 32 Herring Creek Road in Edgartown, Mr. Ferrara said, Prime Marina Group can store up to 300 boats outside and about 250 inside.

Prime Marina Group intends to remodel the retail outlets at both Vineyard marinas this season. “We will continue to stock marine supplies, and hope to expand our offerings to fit what the community wants and needs,” Mr. Ferrara said. He added that improvements to the boardwalk along the water’s edge in Vineyard Haven are slated, and that a new dock layout is in consideration there too. However, no expansion plans are in the works at either marina.

Mr. Ferrara said the group is focused on maintaining a high standard of operation within the current scale of each marina. He said the group intends to hold a number of customer events during the 2017 season. Due to the timing of its transaction with the Rogerses last season, the group was unable to hold any events. That transaction placed the group at the helm of the marinas a week before Memorial Day, an exceptionally busy point in the season for marina work. The types of events the group will hold are still in the works, as is a discount for Islanders who patronize the marinas.

According to Mr. Ferrara, both of the group’s Island marinas have increased staff and now boast two new accounting positions and two new managerial positions. Prime Marina Vineyard Haven currently has openings for a seasonal mechanic and a boatyard helper. Tisbury recently appointed one of the group’s employees, Mike O’Hara, who is the service manager in Vineyard Haven, to a commercial seat on the town’s Waterways/Harbor Management Committee. Prior to joining Prime Marina Group, Mr. O’Hara, a Jersey Shore native, worked a decade for Viking Yacht Co., a maker of sportfishing yachts. He came to the group’s recently acquired Vineyard Haven marina from Viking’s Riviera Beach facility in Florida. In the run-up, he got a decent primer on Vineyard life courtesy of his wife, Morgan (formerly Morgan Anderson of West Tisbury).

Mr. O’Hara said he found the Island community generous and welcoming, and chose to reciprocate. “I decided to pursue the commercial seat because I wanted to help serve the community,” Mr. O’Hara said. “Looking out from my office window every day onto Lagoon Pond gives me a sense of pride and hope that our waters will remain a great place for everyone to enjoy.”

Besides winterization necessities that aren’t a factor in Florida, one of the major differences between the group’s Coconut Grove marina, which also houses its headquarters, and its Vineyard marinas is the scale of the boats served.

“The Miami property is more of a mega-yacht marina, and the facilities here in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown traditionally handle 30- to 40-footers, approximately,” Mr. Ferrara said. He added that boaters have yet to plot cruises up from Coconut Grove to the Vineyard marinas, but the group’s East Greenwich marina is a different story.

“We’ve got a lot of folks that want to come from there and spend a week with us here. So we’re booking a lot of intercompany transient reservations right now, from Rhode Island to the Vineyard.” Mr. Ferrara added that one of the group’s goals is to assemble a string of marinas in close enough proximity to facilitate more of these relatively short intercompany voyages.

Asked by The Times whether less obvious aspects of the marina business buoyed Prime Marina Group’s profitability, or the bottom line of any marina in general, Mr. Ferrara said, “Slips, storage, and service are always the drivers in these operations.”

Despite the ongoing cold and snow, some Prime Marina Group boaters are banking on “out like a lamb,” and have scheduled early launches. “End of the month, the first one goes in,” Mr. O’Hara said. “We’ve got a request for March 27,” he added; “we call those the diehards.”

Despite dropping anchor on the Island at such a hectic point in the season last year, Mr. Ferrara said the group had a great season and a great year overall.

“We got a lot of good experience on the Island, and even got a few new customers,” he said; “can’t say how thrilled we are to be up here for what I kind of see as our first real official season.”